Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy new year and reflections

Well, 2010 has certainly been a year to remember. Not always for the right reasons mind you, but then again all years have their ups and downs. For me and my wife, it has been a tough year financially, like it has for a lot of people in recession-hit Britain. Of course, the whole world has been affected to some degree. Financially, my wish is to get out of debt, but generally, I hope everyone who has suffered on this front gets back on their feet in 2011 and puts their financial worries behind them. What I haven't enjoyed over the last couple of years is paying taxes to see the money going back to banks to pay bonuses to the fat-cat financiers who partly put us in the shit in the first place....

Of course, money isn't everything, as I've always known, and money certainly can't buy the two gorgeous, precious children my wife and I are so lucky to 'own'! Without trying to come across too corny, seeing their smiles, unadulterated by the worries of the world, is a joy to behold and I hope I see loads more of this in 2011.

On the perfume front, I started my blog in March, and nine months later I can sincerely state that I have loved every minute of it. I know mine is just one of hundreds in a saturated blogosphere, but I enjoy doing it and will hopefully continue to do so, as I always intended to do it mainly for self-gratification. On the way I've met some lovely like-minded bloggers and I love reading your blogs, posting comments on your sites and of course, reading your comments on mine in turn. I've learned a lot about perfume on the way too. Although I am a little less anal now about documenting my perfumes as I wear them, I find it is a very good exercise in fine-tuning one's nose and appreciation of notes, as one is forced to think a little more about it. However, I do find that this approach can be a little stifling at times and although I do intend to continue in this vein, I am more relaxed now, and I do find that I pick up notes a lot quicker, although I am by no means an expert and still do not recognise notes consistently. Not that this is essential to my perfume appreciation.

I said a couple of days ago that I wouldn't do a best and worst type of post and based on the suggestions of others, I am instead listing some general perfume highlights:

  • top of the list is starting my perfume blog - I am so glad I took the plunge
  • visiting the Roja Dove Haute Perfumerie on the top floor of Harrods department store - this is an amazing place and well worth a visit for any perfumista
  • continuing to acquire samples from a number of worthy online (and in some cases bricks 'n mortar stores) niche perfume stores, including Les Senteurs, Luckyscent and First-in-fragrance.
  • I've developed a great friendship with a lady called Melanie, from Hoopers Department Store in Tunbridge Wells. She's a great girl and has supplied me with so many samples. I was happy that in the last couple of months I've managed to return the favour and make a couple of full bottle purchases from her. I know the cynical among us would say a sales assistant is a sales assistant, but she and a number of others I know are very nice people and not always purely after the sale. You've just got to strike up the right friendships and try and share knowledge!
As for some perfume discoveries I've made and loved:

  • By Kilian Back to Black and Pure Oud
  • Le Labo Patchouli 24 and to a lesser extent Oud 27
  • Mazzolari Lui - a beast of a patchouli fragrance but amazing
  • Amouage Tribute Attar - smoky, pungent, rosy, woody, mysterious
  • The Different Company Sel de Vetiver - words can't describe it, but I love it
  • Andy Tauer Orange Star - uplifting, joyous, warm incensey orange. Whole is greater than sum of its parts
  • Parfumerie Generale L'eau Guerriere

What about my stalwarts?

  • Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens - my favourite from Uncle Serge, bar none
  • Borneo 1834 - another Serge favourite
  • Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire and Une Rose
  • Chanel Antaeus
  • Christian Dior Homme
  • Guerlain L'instant

Biggest disappointments of the year:

  • Niche - Guerlain L'art et la Matiere and Chanel Les Exclusives. Ok, to be honest I didn't mind the Chanels, but they didn't blow me away. I preferred them to the Guerlains. Another big disappointment (my ears are burning, I know!) was Spiriteuse Double Vanille. It just dies on my skin - must be a chemistry thing no?
  • Mainstream - pretty much everything I'm afraid. Particularly disappointing was Creed's Aventus. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I find them a very over-rated house, particularly the Millesime line.
  • Like others have mentioned, Ambroxan is getting on my nerves a little bit

Biggest surprise of the year:

  • like a few others have mentioned, Thierry Mugler's Womanity is a massive kick-up-the-arse to the rest of the mainstream perfume industry. It is very different and while not personally something I would wear very often, it is very refreshing to encounter this in a jaded industry

What I want more of in 2011:

  • I really want to discover more about the "Indie perfumers" that are exciting me. I won't name them here, but most of you know who they are. Particularly exciting is their willingness to show the bird to the bureaucrats at IFRA and other organisations that are slowly sapping the vitality out of the industry. A question to those of you who live in north America - why are so many artisan perfumers thriving on your side of the pond? I love it, but I can't help but wonder why it isn't happening as much in Europe and Britain. I mean, it may be, but I haven't seen much evidence of it, save for someone like Andy Tauer. 
  • I am curious to start playing around with perfume making myself. I know it's an expensive and time-consuming pastime, and I'm not sure I will do it, but the interest is there.

And so folks, finally, all I want to say is happy new year to all of you who might be reading this. My most sincere wish for all of us, naive as it may be, is to discover true joy and peace in 2011, whatever that might mean for each of us. I look forward to taking the next step on the perfume journey with all of you over the next few months!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Post-Christmas catchup

Well, Christmas is now over and recycling bins country-wide in the UK are filled to the brim with torn wrapping paper, cardboard, plastic and booze bottles. And so the slippery slide to New Year begins....

On a more positive note, my family and I really enjoyed the last few days, although strangely enough I didn't receive any fragrance-related gifts nor did I wear much perfume. With all the spare time on my hands I didn't blog either. I've been looking through all the blogs this evening and to my chagrin everyone seems to have been blogging away like the holidays haven't happened! Drat...

I've been trying some of the perfumes that Carol sent me a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed  Lumberjack Man by Essential Alchemy, a very cedar-intense perfume that avoids the usual cedar cliches. Gingembre by DSH was also very good. I haven't been to the shops much, but I doubt there have been any new launches in this festive period. I did notice on one brief excursion that the usual fragrance box sets are being flogged - does anyone actually buy these? I suppose they do or else they wouldn't be marketed with such fervour in the lead-up to Christmas.

I notice that a lot of bloggers are getting into the end of year list thing again. You know, the best and worst, etc. I'm half-tempted to try one myself, but if I'm being honest, I don't know if I can be bothered. After all, I'm sure that there are dozens out there who could do such a thing far better than me.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

To all my fellow perfume bloggers, happy Christmas. Irrespective of one's personal beliefs, I wish all of you a peaceful time together with your families, friends and loved ones. I sincerely hope you all find true inner peace.

All the best, 

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Office Christmas party blues

I don't know about you, but when the office Christmas party comes round again, I become all bah humbug about it. To put it bluntly, I hate it. It's not that I don't get on with my colleagues, but seeing that I spend more time with them than I do at home with my own family, the last thing I want to do is sit with them eating mediocre festive fair and pretending to be jolly. Ho, ho ho! Let's all get pissed and have a blast!

In fairness, it's not as bad as all that, but to my mind there is a certain pressure that comes with any office party, but particularly Christmas ones,  where unless you are reduced to silly blind drunkenness and forced cheer, you are the odd one out. 

Incidentally, I didn't wear any perfume today. Bad moods and perfume don't go particularly well together, but now that our firm has closed until the new year, I am on holiday and looking forward to trying all the samples Carol sent me recently. I've already sampled DSH Festive and Sandalo Inspiritu, both of which are great, but more about them another day.

Histoires de Parfums - Patchouli Noir

Ah, Patchouli. Divider of opinion. You tend either to love it, or hate it, depending usually on your associations with the leaf and whether you lived through the hippie era. But that's a bit cliched. In any event, I wasn't truly a child of the seventies and didn't know any hippies. Nor did I visit any headshops I was aware of. So while I recognise how patchouli can smell a bit of the unwashed and of other more illicit herbs, I actually like the smell. Having said that, I can't wear a patchouli fragrance every day. It's a very strong and distinctive smell that I like only in moderation. Although patchouli is used in many perfumes (more than you would realise, probably), there aren't that many perfumes, certainly in mainstream, that focus more or less exclusively on the note. These days, patchouli tends to have been 'cleansed' of any odd whiffs or hint of body, fur, mothballs, you name it, to the extent that smelling a true patchouli fragrance can initially be a bit of a shock if you aren't that familiar with the note.

I've written about a few patchouli perfumes before, including three of my favourites, Mazzolari Lui, Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 and Chanel's Coromandel. Lui is a beast of a patchouli fragrance, bearing its fangs right from the start, in a sort of blood, fur and beastly breath fashion, before settling down into a very rich and strong patchouli accord that lasts for hours. If you don't like patchouli, then watch out if you try Lui. Borneo 1834 focuses initially on the mothball-like facets of the leaf, then moves into a rich, oriental take on patchouli with cocoa. It's a beautiful perfume. To my nose, Coromandel bears more of a resemblance to Borneo 1834 in that it also marries a slight chocolate note to a smooth and honeyed patchouli, but is much more reserved.

I recently sampled Patchouli Noir again, by Histoires de Parfums. I've had this one for ages and recall first wearing it last summer. I liked it, but wasn't blown away. This time round was a totally different story. To my mind, Patchouli Noir is unique and smells like no other patchouli fragrance I've encountered. I would describe it as a patchouli chypre. The opening is quite aldehydic, with some citrus notes, which fade very quickly to reveal a spicy pepperiness that immediately reminds me of Noir Epicee by Frederic Malle. The patchouli on this occasion is not evident on my skin at first, but after a few minutes I can sense it lurking beneath the pepper. It's an interesting take on patchouli, with the mossy and pepper notes quite strong, complementing the patchouli. Patchouli can dominate a perfume, but in this case it rounds out the 'harsher' pepper, creating a lovely dry accord that in feel is a bit like the sort of chypre style embodied by Mitsouko for example, although it is nowhere near it in actual smell. I don't generally like pepper in a perfume, but here it creates more of an incense feel than out-and-out pepper-grinder territory. As I said earlier, the first few times I wore Patchouli Noir the patchouli was far more evident and forceful, but in cooler weather it sits back a bit and allows the other ingredients to have a say. It smells wonderfully sophisticated and is entirely unisex in my opinion.

I can easily recommend Patchouli Noir for anyone who wants to try a different angle on the patchouli note or perhaps is not a fan of out-and-out patchouli.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Latest perfume samples

 Some of you may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about my desire to try a few perfumes by Indie perfumers, here. Since then, a very kind and generous lady, Carol, offered to send me some samples she had. I'm sure a lot of you already know of Carol (Waft blog), but in case you don't her perfume blog and fragrance boutique can be found here, and here respectively. 

I knew the package was on its way, but as we've had some severe postal delays in the UK as a result of the severe snowy weather recently, I wasn't sure if it would arrive before Christmas. In any event, when I arrived home last night, lo and behold there was the package in the hall. Hurray!

I'm really excited about trying these, as I've literally not encountered any of them before, so it is a unique experience for me. I'm approaching these samples with no preconceived ideas and am looking forward to writing about some of them over the next few weeks.

I won't mention individual perfumes, but some of the perfumers include:
  • Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
  • Ayala Moriel
  • I Profumi di Firenze
  • Roxana Villa
  • Bruno Acampora
  • Amanda Feeley
  • Laurie Stern
I'd just like to say a special thanks to Carol again.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Perfume and alcohol

As the seasonal festivities really start kicking off now, what with office parties, get-togethers with friends and Christmas and New Year, of course, I wonder what perfume lovers think about wearing perfume and drinking alcohol?

Of course, I'm not presuming that all of us love and drink booze, but speaking from personal experience, I find that when I'm having a few drinks my appreciation of perfume (and, some might say, of a lot of other things) diminishes. This weekend was a good example, when we went round to friends for lunch and consumed a few beverages too. I just couldn't bring myself to wear anything special. It's not like we got blind drunk or anything like that, but I just didn't have the heart. 

For me, perfume appreciation is often a solitary activity anyway. This is only my personal point of view, but then, I've never been the sort of person to wear perfume to attract someone, or get positive comments. I do, of course, enjoy talking about fragrance and sharing my views with like-minded people, but for the most part  I like to immerse myself in what I am wearing and think about and appreciate it alone. And for me booze and fragrance generally aren't great companions. But perhaps that is just me - I'd be interested in finding out what others think about this.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Weekend roundup and L'Occitane

L'Occitane seems to be one of those perfume and bath & body product shops that has been around forever. Yet I seldom take much notice of the shops or the products. I've tried some of their products and have always liked them, but for some reason have never taken the perfumes too seriously. I don't know why. I also noticed that there appear to be very few reviews of their products.

A L'Occitane shop opened in our shopping centre this week and so I decided to wander in and take a peek at what they've got. I saw the usual products that I've seen numerous times before, but I was pleasantly surprised to spot some new additions to the line. Well, they may not be new, but I haven't seen them before. I saw some interesting room fragrances and candles, including a lovely-smelling amber  and a winter-pine, which luckily did not smell like toilet cleaner. They also had some single-note perfumes, including Labdanum, Iris, Mimosa, Myrtle, Cedar, Jasmine and Neroli. I don't know if any of you have smelled these, but on paper I also loved the green tea and a lemon verbena, both in eau de toilette.

I also tried the relatively new Iris by Crabtree and Evelyn. It's quite simple, but actually smells really nice. Another perfume I haven't seen but has suddenly cropped up in Fenwick is Paloma Picasso. I don't think it is particularly high-end. In fact a search on the internet showed that you can find it for about $9, but it smelled alright on paper. 

I've also been trying some more in the Acqua Di Parma Blu Meditteraneo line, including a fig scent and a cypress one. Neither wowed me as much as the Bergamot I mentioned last week, but both were still very nice and I can see myself trying these on skin come spring and summer, whenever that might be!

Have a good weekend everyone.

Some days you just feel like an idiot

Do you ever one of those days where no matter how hard you try, you make a fool of yourself? Every day, I hear you say. Nah, only kidding. But seriously, today I ran a meeting at work, which I do periodically. Now, this sort of thing is not my strength, as I am not naturally a good speaker or particularly comfortable holding court. However, I always try my best and usually manage to make a decent go of it. Today I prepared as always, had my agenda and key points, and felt fine. During the meeting was another matter. Others in my team were involved in delivering elements of the agenda and my first error was to talk on the one point when my colleague was meant to, so I effectively blanked her. Not good. Then I bounced a question off another person, realising at the moment I asked him that he wasn't even the one responsible for that area. The meeting ran in a stilted fashion and I couldn't wait to end it and get the freaking hell out of there! Now these small errors may seem trivial, and perhaps most of the staff didn't even notice, but I am a perfectionist and hate to get things wrong.

So, I'm boring the pants off all of you. My apologies. Thank God it is the weekend, as Britain looks forward to more frigid temperatures and heavy snow. 

To end, thank goodness for perfume. The one thing I did right today was to wear Orange Star by Andy Tauer, after reading a post on it by Chicken Freak. I do love this perfume and on an icy cold winter day it sings on my skin, all juicy warm orange, woods, vanilla and an effect like incense. Gorgeous. Thank you Andy for a wonderful creation.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Parfumerie Generale - Querelle

I've seen Querelle being described as an animalic, daring and in some cases, almost scary perfume. I'm not sure why. On my skin it comes across primarily as a chypre, slightly different true, but hardly groundbreaking. 

The notes include citrus, Iranian Black caraway, myrrh, cinnamon, Haitian vetiver, incense, oakmoss and Ambergris. Luckyscent describe it thus: 'Inspired by Jean Genet’s brutal and erotic tale of hidden desires and violence, Querelle is a scent of supreme elegance and forceful sensuality.' I like Querelle, but at no point does it remind me of any erotic tales or violence. Perhaps I am not imaginative enough. 

When I was doing some picture searches for this post, I came across loads of sexual ones, mainly of men in compromising positions, genitals to the fore and quivering with unrelieved tension. It was rather unnerving!  I am not familiar with Genet's works, but clearly there is something going on there....

So, on to the fragrance itself. The opening is citrusy, for want of a better description. Not generically so, but with a hint of soapiness. There is a light spicy kick of bergamot and  I thought I could detect a whiff of lavender. For a short while it has that gentlemanly, slightly old-fashioned cologne feel to it, with a herbal undertone. Almost from the start I detect a mossiness to Querelle that lends it that chypre feel. The heart stays mossy, with a bit of sweetness and woods. I'm not really sure what caraway smells like (aniseed-like?) but the heart reminds me a bit of Papyrus di Ciane by the same house, perhaps a bit stronger and drier. I'm struggling to describe Querelle. I'm sure the vetiver is there, but I don't really detect much incense, cinnamon or ambergris, at least not on my skin. Perhaps I should spray this on paper to see if these facets reveal themselves. As we enter the dry down, the predominant note for me is still moss, and Querelle still wears like a chypre, perhaps a touch more masculine and dry. It smells good, but I can't help but feel slightly let down after the glowing and hyperbolic reviews. Where is the lust? Where is the sensuality? Where is the brutality and eroticism? For that matter, where are the copulating men? Seriously though, Querelle is quite restrained and the only word that comes to mind is elegance. It is a good perfume, but I'm just not head-over-heels about it.

Querelle is perfectly unisex. It is perhaps a touch more masculine than some chypres I have tried, but ultimately it smells mossy and slightly spicy. I won't write it off, but I prefer other, more daring perfumes in the Parfumerie Generale lineup.

Image credit -

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Winter smells

I don't know about you, but I love all sorts of smells. In fact, as a perfume lover, I am surprised that I never fell in love sooner. Even as a small child I used to smell everything, and used to embarrass my parents in restaurants when I would lift a plate of food to my face and sniff it in front of everyone! I can seldom not stop when out walking and pull a flower to my nose to sniff, or crush a herb between my figures to savour the aroma. 

Some of you might not be surprised to read that I love food. My parents owned a restaurant when we were growing up and both of them loved to cook. It wasn't fine-dining, Michelin-star stuff, but our family has always appreciated food and drink, some might say to our detriment, shape-wise, from time to time!

I love the smell of the seasons, and the change of seasons. Each has it's own distinct feel, atmosphere and smell. Of course I love the smells of spring, summer and autumn, but seeing as we are entering winter proper now, I thought I would touch on a few smells that I associate with this season.

The two pictures I have uploaded are food-wise some of my favourites of the season. I am no photographer, so I apologise in advance  - these are more appetizing in real life, I promise! Top left is the initial stage of preparing chickpea and chorizo stew, with prawns. Now, I know, I know. Those aren't chickpeas, they are cannellini beans, but I didn't have any chickpeas on this occasion. Admittedly, I eat this dish at any time of year, but there is something about the creaminess of beans, the salty-spicy kick of sausage, the smokiness of paprika and the minerality (is there such a word?) of seafood that just feels right to me on a cold, dark winter evening, washed down with a crisp wine. 

The second picture is of loads of dried fruits steeping or macerating in rum. This is the initial phase of our Christmas cake, which has become somewhat of a tradition in our family. The recipe is somewhat unusual in that it uses rum, calvados and Angostura bitters for the booziness, rather than the usual brandy, but it is delicious! The fruits included raisins, sultanas, prunes, currants, glace cherries and candied orange, lime and lemon peel, which macerate in the rum for 3 to 4 days. Added to this mix thereafter is nutmeg, mixed spice, cinnamon, black treacle, muscovado sugar, flour and eggs. When the cake has baked and cooled, one feeds it with some more rum over the next couple of days, according to taste of course! This lasts for ages and is a great pick-me-up in the new year, once the exuberance of Christmas has passed and one only has those long, cold and dark January nights for company, with a whisky of course!

Speaking of whisky, there is nothing I like more on a cold winter evening than a wee dram of single malt, my choice being Laphroaig, the peaty, iodine-like, smoky whisky that is not to everyone's taste. Those aromas and tastes fit so well with winter to me.

So, there you have it, a little insight into my winter food smells. Of course, there are a lot of other smells I like in winter, such as the clean freshness of snow, pine, orange, woodsmoke, wintersweet and many others. However I mention foods because I find December so intrinsically linked to eating and drinking.

As this is a perfume blog, I wanted to try and link some of these foods and smells to perfume. Well, the boozy fruits remind me of a number of Serge Lutens creations. I struggled to think of any perfume that smells a bit like sausage, seafood and beans! Perhaps you could suggest one? As for smoky whisky, for some reason I think of leathery fragrances, and also of Montale. I think in the case of Laphroaig it might be that medicinal, iodine edge which is similar to the oud openings of many Montales.

So, tell me what you think. Do you also enjoy smelling for the sake of it? What food reminds you most of the winter months, particularly Christmas? Do you enjoy  whisky, or do you have another favourite seasonal tipple?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Weekend roundup

I don't usually show personal pictures on my blog, but for some reason I felt like doing so today. On the left is my younger daughter Daisy, 20 months old, tucking into plums on the pick-your-own fruit farm back in August, while further on below is my older daughter, Hannah, almost 4, enjoying playing nurse! No, this has nothing to do with perfume, but they are cute, even if I say so myself, as a biased dad. And thinking about it, I can almost smell the juiciness of that plum as Daisy bites into it....

As a general post, I have been smelling a bit of this and a bit of that recently. There aren't many new perfumes out in the lead up to Christmas, at least not in my neck of the woods. In a way I'm almost glad - it's quite nice to go a couple of weeks without a further aimless release, destined to be on the discount shelves within a year, if not sooner. Sorry, I'm feeling slightly cynical this evening.

One perfume I tried recently that took me by surprise is Womanity, by Thierry Mugler. Despite the garishly kitsch bottle and pink colour, the juice is really good. This is a good perfume folks, and surprisingly original. What is it with me and the word surprise? I shouldn't really be surprised. After all, despite what you might think of Mugler and Angel in particular, this house generally does release original perfume, whether you like them or not.

Another perfume I tried and liked a lot is Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotta di Calabria. Despite the 5 minutes it took to type this name out, I found it to be a lovely rendition of a realistic and alluring Bergamot note. Bergamot is so often overused as a top note in perfume and in my opinion is often parceled up with some real generic dreck, almost to the point when I read bergamot in the list of notes, I gloss over it and move onto something seemingly more exciting. Actually, in this case, the perfume is simple, but very nice smelling, probably better suited to warmer months, but the bergamot carries enough spiciness and interest to hold up in the cooler months too. I've never paid much attention to the Blu Mediterraneo line before. I'm not sure why. I think I will be trying a few more from now on.

I'm sure I have tried a few more perfumes of late, but these two stood out for me. The department stores are awash now with sales people trying to force perfume gift sets mostly on unsuspecting and slightly naive men trying to find something for their other half or mother in the Christmas commercial feeding frenzy. 

I'm trying to avoid the shops as much as possible over the next two weeks - I just hate the overall commerciality of this season and I feel jaded already. My kids are loving it though - not the shops that is - and I'm enjoying opening advent calendars with them, telling them tales of Santa and his elves beavering away in the North Pole, getting all the presents ready, decorating the Christmas Tree and so forth. I know that the concept of Christmas can be a polarising issue for many people, but I personally am enjoying experiencing a lot of it through the excitement of my children. If anything, my wish for this season is not about Christmas itself, but the hope that families will get together, overcome differences and spend quality, precious time together. Life is too short, so let's make the most of it!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Giving perfume at Christmas

It occurred to me recently, that since I became really interested in perfume about three and a half years ago, I have never given anyone a perfume gift. Now to some that might seem a little strange. I used to give my wife perfume fairly regularly, mainly before we were married. However, since she had kids she has struggled with a lot of smells, especially when she suffered from morning sickness, and then when breast feeding. So I stopped giving her perfume, understandably. However, this year she seems to be getting over this affliction, to the point where she does try stuff in department stores, and even samples from my own collection, although she still struggles with fragrances that are too intense. 

A couple of months ago she smelled Hermes Eau Claire des Merveilles, which I think is a flanker of sorts to the original. She enthused about it, and I must admit I do like that combination of salty woods and orange, and it does smell good on her. So this Christmas I have bought her a bottle and I truly hope she likes it! It felt really good to buy someone else a bottle of perfume. That may seem a little strange, but I am so used to indulging myself with perfume and perfume samples, and have immersed myself in the whole perfume culture, that it is refreshing for a change to think of someone else, perfume-wise.

So, what I am interested in hearing from you, fellow perfumistas, is whether you ever buy perfume for your other half or another loved one or friend, and how that makes you feel.

Incidentally, while sort of on the subject of Hermes, I feel I should state that I really enjoy a lot of their perfumes. Many are not necessarily ground breaking, but there is a feeling of understated luxury with the brand, and a craftsmanship about Hermes, that makes me usually hold their perfumes in high regard.

Image credit -

Thursday, 9 December 2010

L'Artisan Al Oudh

I've had a sample of Al Oudh since it first came out sometime towards the end of last year. I'm surprised I haven't written about it before. I do enjoy it a lot, although I realise it's one of those fragrances that seems to divide opinion. The dividing line appears to be around one's tolerance for cumin. Now a lot has been written about cumin in perfumery. Some find it smells like body odour, stinky armpits, you name it; others simply associate it mostly with Indian food and spices. I tend to fall into the later category and therefore Al Oudh is not a fragrance that repels me, thankfully.

Al Oudh opens with an intense fruity-sweet note. It's not garish though, reminding me more of the oriental style of Lutens. This fades quickly to reveal a much dryer oud and saffron accord, quite spicy. A lot of people struggle to detect an oud note, and I must admit that on some days I do while on others I don't. When I do, the oud is not medical and sharp like one often encounters with Montale, but rather it is earthy and dank, like Le Labo's Oud 39 for example. Shortly thereafter a deep and rich rose enters the fray, joined by quite a lot of cumin. The rose is quite sweet and intense, and as I've often said before, like with a lot of good perfumes this is balanced by something much spicier and dry, namely the cumin. I'm not sure if it is the rose, but the sweetness is surprisingly fruity, like the smell of dates, lending a westernised idea of a middle-eastern concept. As the fragrance develops, the heart continues in much the same vein, but I detect an incense note as well, at which point I am reminded of a less austere, more complex Timbuktu. It's no coincidence that both were created by Bertrand Duchaufour, an incense master.

The base of Al Oudh is still mostly about rose, spices, incense and softer woods, but what I like is a slightly dirty note that lurks just beneath the surface. It's a bit earthy and slightly animalic and I wonder if there is a civet note that causes this. I must admit that Al Oudh is a bit  temperamental on me. I first wore it in the dead of winter and in the cold the rose was a bit thin and the earthier animalic notes never quite revealed themselves. On this sort of day Al Oudh plays out quite a lot like Timbuktu, I think. In the warmer months the rose and cumin were much 'fuller' and more pronounced, and those more elusive base notes really came to the fore.

I really like and admire Al Oudh. I think along with Timbuktu it is possibly my favourite in the L'Artisan line and a very good example of showcasing the skills of Bertrand Duchaufour. Definitely one to sample if you like rose, cumin, oud and woods.

Image credit -

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Andy Tauer L'air du Desert Marocain

L'air du Desert Marocain (let's call it L'air for the purpose of brevity) seems to be one of Andy Tauer's best-loved and most talked-about perfumes. I love the bottle label, pictured left, and although I don't mind Andy's new bottles and packaging, I have great fondness for his slightly retro and charming old labels.

The notes include coriander, petitgrain, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, cistus, bourbon geranium, cedarwood, vetivier, vanilla, patchouli and ambergris. On my skin the opening is quite dry and dusty. I certainly don't experience the citrus notes. Rather, there is a sweet resinous and spicy note, almost waxy, like polish. There is an astringency, for want of a better word, which paired with the floral jasmine and drier, spicy geranium creates an incense-y feel to L'air. Another word that comes to mind is bracing, although not in the sense of cold. To me the bracing feel is more the sensation of being out in the great outdoors in air that is so pure and fresh (but not cold) that it is uplifting.

In the heart I start to detect the woody notes of cedar and patchouli, with cistus, and if you are familiar with the so-called Tauerade, this is when it starts to make its presence known. L'air to me is a bit like Lonestar Memories without the campfire smoke. It strengthens and becomes heavier, although never cloying. It is actually quite sweet, with the vanilla, but like a lot of good perfumes, balances this with the stronger resinous notes, with a bit of vetiver to brighten it. Although frankincense is not listed, L'air to me wears like an incense perfume, at least in feel. The base is seriously long-lasting and if you've any experience of Tauer perfumes, you will know this first-hand. It just goes on and on. However in this case it isn't a negative. While some perfumes overstay their welcome, L'air manages to evolve over a long period of time without becoming too intrusive or cloying. I should mention that two sprays is more than enough to last you from morning till night, easily. 

I must admit that L'air is not my favourite Tauer perfume, but it is still very good and as I said earlier, very well received, and deservedly so.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Boadicea Complex

Boadicea is a line that I approached with some trepidation, perhaps unfairly. It's strange sometimes, at least to me, how certain perfume houses gain an almost fanatical following, while others are either overlooked completely, or are received with ridicule. Perhaps ridicule is a bit over the top, but Boadicea has certainly met with some disdain in the blogosphere. I have found few, if any, favourable reviews. 

So I decided to order a sample of Complex, which has been described as 'the underside of an old car', 'something you would pour into your car to make it explode', 'sharply animalic', and 'a mess'. Hardly the sort of glowing descriptions that would usually make one scramble for the credit card!

The notes from Luckyscent include violet, labdanum, leather, basil, sage, musk and civet. On me the opening is a sharp blast of rubber, leather, plastic/vinyl and something green, dark and sappy like crushed stems. To call this a memorable assault on the senses is somewhat of an understatement. The early phases of development remind me very strongly of two other leathery fragrances that equally scare the wits out of me, namely Vierges and Toreros by ELDO and Cuir by Mona di Orio. I suppose one might call this a leather green chypre, but Complex is a bold, scary and severe whiplash of animalic leather that smells metallic, synthetic and yet at the same time bizarrely organic. It's hard to describe really.

The heart is as uncompromising as the top, staying intensely leathery, almost charred, with a deep woodiness to it that at times smells disturbingly like blood and fur to me. It's really no holds-barred stuff. Complex is a linear fragrance, but having said that, like some other very strong and long-lasting perfumes, I suspect the linear feel comes not so much from actually being simple, but rather that the playing out of development is so prolonged that it just feels that way. Complex remains leathery for the next few hours, to the point where I struggle to smell my skin where applied - it is relentless. However, deep into development, some eight hours later, I start to detect a green vetiver note every now and then, gleaming through the dark base like sparkling gems, and a couple of hours later the leather softens sufficiently to allow a little sweetening of the woods, a relief to the battered olfactory senses!

To sum up, Complex is not for the faint-hearted. If you like your leather strong, I suspect you might tolerate this, but only barely. If you don't, then watch out. I can't help feeling as if they missed a trick here - the far-dry down is actually very nice once the charred leather note is softened, showing glimpses of what this fragrance could have been, had it displayed just a bit more restraint and subtlety. Those of you who know my tastes will know that I usually like bold, challenging perfumes, and Complex is definitely that. However even Complex is a step too far for me. Even so, I was taken on a journey, albeit a macabre and scary one, and there's something to be said for that.

Image credit -

Friday, 3 December 2010

Longing to try Indie perfumes

For quite some time now I have been visiting the websites of, and reading about, a number of so-called Indie Perfumers. In particular I've been checking out Neil Morris, Anya's Garden, Roxanna Illuminated Perfume, and DSH Perfumes. I like the idea that many of these people are trying different things and not afraid to express themselves outside of the constraints of the IFRA regulations. Now that is a massive subject in itself, and much debated, so I am not even going to attempt to add my two pennies worth!

I do have a dilemma though - I want to order some samples from some of these perfumers, but damn, they seem to have so many different perfume ranges that I find it totally confusing. I'm particularly fascinated by some of the perfumes on offer at DSH Perfumes. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has a vaste range of perfumes, divided primarily between her Parfum des Beaux Arts line and what she calls her Essense Oils. However, within each of these categories lie further subdivisions, plus essential oils, aromatherapy products, you name it. Is it just me, or is this totally confusing?

Now, the purpose of this post is not to criticise DSH Perfumes by any means. In fact, I like the fact that there are so many fascinating products to try. However, for an Indie newbie like me who wants to dip his proverbial toe in the water, it is extremely difficult to decide what to try first. I can purchase various sample sets, or individual samples, across numerous ranges. Yikes.

Now usually the question I'm going to ask is better directed at a public forum, like say on MUA or basenotes, but as I trust the judgement of you, dear reader, I am instead going to pose the question here - if you have any knowledge of DSH Perfumes, please could you give me some recommendations of where to start? As some of you might already know, I like earthy, animalic accords, so for example ambers, leather, musk, oud, patchouli, deep woods, spices and incense are all up my  alley.

Incidentally, I'd enjoy reading your experiences of Indie Perfumers to date, and whether there are any you'd particularly like me to try.

Image credit -

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Perfume, smell and my family

I'm not sure what it is, but recently I have been missing my family, and by family I mean not my wife and daughters (much as I love them, bless them), but my mum, dad and sisters in particular. 

My mum passed away almost six years ago, and not a day passes without thinking about her in some way. I should admit that my mum was not always the easiest person to get along with; she could be fractious and difficult. But one thing I am certain of - she loved all of us immensely, whatever some of her failings may have been. As for failings, we all have them, don't we, no matter how much better we sometimes think we are than our parents. My mum's birthday is on the 10th of December, always a poignant and slightly melancholy time for us. 

Back to the living, as for my dad and sisters, they are scattered far and wide. I live in England, my older sister lives in Australia, while my dad and younger sister live in South Africa, where I grew up. As much as we do try to get together from time to time, in reality it is only every other year at best, usually longer than that. Of course, absence makes the heart grow fonder and living apart has meant that we, perhaps ironically, perhaps not, have grown closer in some ways, and when we do get together, these are usually joyous occasions. Christmas time can be tough though. In the early days of my wife and I living in England, the festive season was anything but. I can recall some very lonely winters in the early part of last decade. Now that we have our own children, I find that Christmas has become wonderful again and we are making our own family and its traditions a reality right here in old Blighty. 

So, what has this to do with perfume, you ask? Well, nothing really! I just felt like writing about something other than perfume, and to reveal what is on my mind at this time of year. But seeing as this is a perfume blog after all, let me tell you what my fragrance associations with my family are. My mum always wore perfume, but was by no means a perfume addict. One perfume I do distinctly remember her wearing was the original Eau de Gucci (c. 1982), by Gucci, which is now sadly discontinued. Some people say that a son usually marries a version of his mother. Well, I don't know if that's true, but the first perfume I bought for my wife (then girlfriend) was Eau de Gucci. My wife still has the bottle with a few little drops in it, partly because it's special I suppose, and, I like to think, that she knows it was a perfume my mum liked to wear. My dad was a Old Spice man in the seventies and part of the eighties, like a lot of men I think. The smell of Old Spice is as familiar to me as any other smell I can recall. As my dad got older he started wearing Tsar by Van Cleef and Arpels for some reason, and also enjoyed Dior's Fahrenheit. Incidentally I love both of these as well. And my sisters? Well, to be honest, I haven't a clue what my older sister likes to wear, while the younger swears by L'Eau D'Issey by Issey Miyake and Tommy Girl!

At the risk of coming across a bit morbid, every now and then I rummage through my wife's perfume box and bring out the Eau De Gucci, look at it, take the cap off and just indulge in a little sniff. And when I do, I think of my mother, and think of the good.

First snow of the season

As many of you probably know, England is not really known for its cold and snowy weather. Damp, yes. Grey, yes. Snow, no. Having said that, last year saw our coldest winter in a number of years and this year we've received snow in November, certainly the earliest in my corner of the country, in my memory.

Here in Kent, the snow started on the night of the 29th, continued yesterday, and we had a big dump of it overnight. Certainly by my standards it is a lot of snow, although I understand that this might be piddly by comparison to what you get in North America, or Eastern Europe.

Pictured above left is snow on the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, where I live. The Pantiles is the oldest part of town, dating back to early Georgian times and is the historic centrepiece of my town. Now that the cold weather has set in with a vengeance, I am looking forward to revisiting some of my bolder fragrances. I'm yearning for earthy accords, dark woods, tobacco, spicy amber, oud, patchouli, the coziness of vanilla - anything really that makes me want to either traipse around in a winter wonderland, padded with warm clothing, or sit beside a roaring fire in a country pub, quaffing a real ale, or sip a single malt whisky in the comfort of my warm home.

My recently ordered samples have now arrived and I'm looking forward to trying these, and blogging about them; if I have the time that is. After all, I might be too busy sledging, building snowmen with my children, or drinking beer at a country pub!

I hope you all have a great December and enjoy the lead-up to Christmas. Most of all, focus on spending quality time with your loved ones, whoever they might be.


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